[Windows 10 Tip #6] - Security Settings

Category: Windows-10

Windows 10 has new security features baked in that are designed to eliminate vulnerabilities and make it harder to exploit. In this installment of the Windows 10 tips series, we'll take a look at Windows 10 security features and settings. Let’s do that now…

The Windows 10 Security Center

You don't need to understand the workings of Data Execution Prevention, Address Space Layout Randomization, UEFI Secure Boot, or Structured Exception Handling Overwrite Protection. You don't even have to memorize the acronyms that go along with them. All you need to know is that these "threat mitigation" features are part of Windows 10, and they're working in the background to protect you from a variety of threats and cyber-attacks.

[See more helpful articles in my Windows 10 Tips series: Click Here.]

But if you have Windows 10, you should be familiar with the Windows Defender Security Center, which is the hub for all security-related settings. Windows Defender (Microsoft's built-in antivirus tool), Windows Firewall and a few other tools were merged into the new Windows Defender Security Center app in the Windows 10 Creators Update released in April, 2017 (build 1703).

This app puts many Windows 10 security features in one place. You can fine-tune your anti-malware scanning options, tweak device settings, configure parental controls, or perform a “Fresh Start" if things get fouled up. To open the Windows Defender Security Center, just right-click the Defender shield icon in the notification area on the taskbar and click Open. OR, you can click on the Start menu and search for Windows Defender Security Center.

Windows 10 Security Center app

Virus & threat protection is where you’ll find malware scanning functions; toggles for real-time protection, cloud-based protection, controls for malware sample submission to Microsoft, the ability to exempt files or folders from Defender scans, notifications settings for Defender and Firewall, and threat definition update controls.

Perhaps you're wondering if you're locked into Microsoft's security tools with Windows 10. Thankfully, the answer is no. You can still use AVG, Avast, Avira, BitDefender, or any other antivirus tool you like on Windows 10. If you a install a third-party antivirus or firewall product, Microsoft Defender and Firewall will be disabled automatically, and the presence of your antivirus tool will be indicated here. (See my article Free Antivirus Programs for links to the best free Internet security tools.)

If you're a little bit geeky and want to learn the technical details of the threat mitigation features in Windows 10, see Mitigate threats by using Windows 10 security features. You'll learn all about DEP, ASLR, UEFI, SEHOP, HVCI, ELAN, DHA and other fine acronynms.

Device performance & health is where you can check for any issues with Windows Update and device drivers that may leave you vulnerable. Storage capacity and battery life issues may affect system performance/health. You'll also see here if you’re current with your Windows updates, and if not, what might be causing the update bottleneck.

Here you will also find the Fresh Start option that can re-install the latest version of Windows 10 if necessary. Microsoft recommends this option if your computer has performance issues or if you have too many unnecessary apps. Fresh Start will remove most of your apps, but will keep your personal data and Windows settings intact. If you’ve had trouble getting build 1703 or above via Windows Update, try Fresh Start. But first, try the Windows Update Troubleshooter. (In Settings, search for troubleshoot.)


Firewall & network protection includes Windows Firewall settings and the Network and Internet Troubleshooter. Oddly, there seems to be nothing under the Advanced Settings link.


Apps & browser control deals with Windows Smartscreen settings that can warn you of potentially dangerous Web content before it is downloaded by Edge or an app, or block sketchy content without warning, or let any old thing into your system (not recommended). Note that Smartscreen will scan any file downloaded from the Internet, even if it was downloaded by a non-Microsoft browser or app. I recommend leaving all of these toggles “on.”


Family options include parental controls over the sites kids can visit, the hours and days when they can use the Internet, and the apps they can buy based upon “maturity ratings.” A Microsoft account is required to use Family options. I tried the parental controls built into Windows 8.1 on my son's computer, but he found that they were easily bypassed just by changing the date or time on the system clock. I have not tried this feature on a Windows 10 computer, so if you have experience with it, please share.


One final note -- If you don’t need Internet Explorer, I suggest removing it from Windows 10 to give hackers one less program that may have exploitable vulnerabilities. IE is a favorite target because, historically, it has lots of vulnerabilities and it’s present on most Windows computers. To uninstall IE, go to Control Panel and select Uninstall a program. In the lefthand sidebar of the next screen, click on Turn Windows features on and off. Find Internet Explorer and uncheck its checkbox.

While you’re there, review all installed Windows features and uncheck any that you don’t need. The Edge browser cannot be uninstalled or disabled. I got rid of Windows Media Player, Windows Fax and Scan, the Internet Printing Client, and SMB 1.0 file sharing support. SMB1, as it’s called, enables file and printer sharing with old versions of Windows (NT, XP, and Server 2003); if you don’t need to do that, get rid of SMB1. When you have unchecked everything you want to remove, click OK. You’ll need to wait a few minutes while features are removed and your system reboots.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[Windows 10 Tip #6] - Security Settings"

Posted by:

Henry Bruce
13 Jul 2017

Bob, great article, very helpful & informative..thanks as always.


Posted by:

Fred
13 Jul 2017

Bob,
Why with the huge hard drives available today, would one need to uninstall any of the programs you have listed in the final paragraph ?
I am not all that geeky as to computers, so I wonder why remove any program one never uses.


Posted by:

Ron
13 Jul 2017

@Fred:

You wrote:
"Why with the huge hard drives available today, would one need to uninstall any of the programs you have listed in the final paragraph ?
I am not all that geeky as to computers, so I wonder why remove any program one never uses. "

The less junk installed, the less things have to be updated if they are found to have security bugs in the future.

The SMB1.0 feature is a big one, as its always listening for incoming connections to the computer. If it has a security bug, then it would be easier to exploit if you haven't removed that feature.


Posted by:

Ira L. Jacobson
13 Jul 2017

I wonder why you deleted Windows Fax and Scan. Do you have a better faxing program, or do you just not fax?
Once upon a time I used WinFax and I really miss it now.


Posted by:

Dr. Sheldon Cooper
13 Jul 2017

Just an FYI on disabling SMB1...if you have a LinkSys SmartWifi router (in my case WRT1200AC) and use the External Storage feature (in my case w/a USB3 drive and an eSATA drive), disabling SMB1 on your computer will prevent you from seeing the network drives. I have confirmed this with Linksys Technical Support and the only workaround offered was to enable FTP on the router (which I don't care for). I requested a firmware upgrade to address the issue, but I'm not holding my breath.


Posted by:

Dr. Sheldon Cooper
13 Jul 2017

BTW...if you have a LinkSys router you should read this: http://blog.ioactive.com/2017/04/linksys-smart-wi-fi-vulnerabilities.html


Posted by:

kevin
13 Jul 2017

Bob: Don't we need to keep Internet Explorer in order to get Windows Updates? Or is that finally possible with other browsers?


Posted by:

David
14 Jul 2017

Kevin, IE is not necessary for Windows Update, which is a standalone app.


Posted by:

Jim
17 Jul 2017

I've been using my new Windows 10 since March of this year. I like it a lot. Besides Windows defender it came with a free one year membership of McAfee security. McAfee has done a good job so far. Do you have an opinion of if Windows Defender is better then McAfee security?


Posted by:

Jim
17 Jul 2017

I used Immunet 3 free security for a long time and used it on a computer with Windows XP long after Microsoft ended support for XP. I guess I was just fortunate, because I never had a single security breach, nothing. Would you recommend using Immunet along with a popular antivirus like Avast Free?


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